How to Prevent Teeth Shifting After Braces

Kaitlyn Short

Last Updated: January 28th, 2022

Teeth shifting after braces infographic

Anyone who's endured traditional braces remembers the constant poking and prodding of wires, the gentle and constant ache, and the daily struggle to keep your smile free of food debris. It's a childhood memory many of us try to forget. But the reality is, braces may once again become a necessary step if your teeth begin to shift. 

Many adults purchase braces to correct moderate spacing and crowding issues. Many of these individuals had orthodontic treatment as an adolescent and stopped wearing their retainers for one reason or another. In this article, we are going to cover topics related to why teeth move after braces, how to minimize teeth movement, and how to fix misaligned teeth. 

Why do teeth move after braces? 

Teeth shift after braces because of genetics, oral health hygiene, and/or retainer-wearing habits. Your teeth are most susceptible to shifting soon after you get your braces removed. During this time, fibers in your gums are still hardening to the new teeth positions. The teeth need time to settle into the new position. 

Orthodontists recommend wearing retainers day and night right after you conclude braces treatment. You’ll eventually be able to switch to night-time only once you’ve received approval from your provider. Expect to wear your retainer full-time for a few months up to a year depending on your case. 


The structure of your face and jawline continues to change as you get older. Your lower jaw grows forward resulting in a larger gap between your upper front teeth and crowding with your lower front teeth. Your lips also become tighter applying added external pressure to your teeth. These small changes can lead to teeth shifting especially if you are not wearing retainers. 

Dental work and poor oral health 

Oral health plays a big role in your teeth' alignment. Bacteria and plaque buildup can contribute to more serious issues such as periodontal disease. Progress stages of periodontal disease can lead to bone loss and loose teeth. Other internal factors can add pressure that fights against our desired teeth alignment. 

Dr. Megan Simmons at Klement Family Dental highlights some of the common changes that cause mesial drift — the tendency for our teeth to move forward. 

“The mesial shift is simply the natural movements that our teeth experience and by being such highly used tools in our daily lives. Driving factors are when you have wisdom teeth eruption which encourages even more mesial drift. 

Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching) is also a factor and has increased in occurrences since COVID emerged due to general increases in stress among adults. Lastly, tooth loss can lead to bite changes and with that, additional and new tooth shifting. These situations that lead to drifting are more observed changes in your mouth, so you can plan for them a bit easier.”

Retainer misuse 

Your teeth are subject to small forces throughout the day such as when you chew or swallow. Retainers are used to combat daily pressures that encourage your teeth to move out of position. 

Dr. Kit Allen-Waters highlights common pressures that may result in teeth shifting over time. 

“The obvious cause of tooth pressure is eating. But the key to tooth movement after braces is actually different. When we talk and eat our tongue presses against our teeth. When we clench our teeth, smile (or frown) we use muscles. These muscles also exert all kinds of force onto

These little movements can cause your teeth to shift over time. If you stop wearing your retainer, you may find that your retainer no longer fits. Never try to force your retainer to fit. This could damage your teeth long-term. You should instead order another retainer or consider getting corrective aligners. 

How can I minimize teeth shifting after braces?

The only way to prolong the results of your orthodontic treatment is to wear retainers consistently. This minimizes how much your teeth shift as you age. You should also maintain proper oral hygiene and continue to visit your provider for annual check-ups. 

Wear your retainers 

If you want straight teeth for life, you have to wear your retainers — for life. Your orthodontist or dental provider will recommend a retainer based on your treatment. Some cases require a specific type of retainer while others allow for flexibility. If you’ve had a difficult time wearing your current set of retainers, you may want to consider a different type. Below is a list of the most common types of retainers along with a brief description. 

  • Permanent retainer
  • Hawley retainer
  • Clear retainer

Permanent retainer 

  • Average Lifespan: Indefinitely (depending on care)
  • Average cost:  $200–$600 per arch 

A permanent retainer is bonded to the backside of your teeth to keep your teeth in place. An orthodontist may recommend this type of retainer for teeth that are more susceptible to movement. The biggest advantage to permanent retainers is never needing to keep track of your retainers. These devices can also last indefinitely depending on how you care for your teeth. Permanent retainers can make it difficult to properly clean and floss between your teeth. A special flosser tool can be used to thread the floss through your bonded retainer. This does require extra thought and attention during your daily oral hygiene routine. 

Hawley retainers 

  • Average lifespan: 1–20 years
  • Average cost: $150–$300

Hawley retainers are a durable option for those who don’t mind the look of a wired retainer. Hawley retainers consist of a plastic or acrylic shape that lays against the roof of your mouth. The attached wire may press on all the teeth or just the front few. These are a great option for those who are looking for a long-lasting option that allows for slight adjustments. This is also one of the cheapest options.

Hawley retainers last anywhere from five to ten years before needing to be replaced. You should consider getting a new retainer if you notice small cracks or a calcium buildup. You may also need a replacement if the retainer feels loose. 

Clear Retainers 

  • Recommend replacement: 6 months–a few years
  • Average cost: $100–$400 per pair 

Clear retainers are a discreet and comfortable option. Many remote invisible braces providers offer retainers for purchase and subscription options. These retainers usually only last for about six months. You could end up spending a lot of money if you are replacing your retainer every six months for the rest of your life. You can also choose a more durable clear retainer such as Essix. 

If you struggle with teeth grinding at night, you may want to consider clear retainers over the other options. Clear aligners will reduce the contact between your upper and lower teeth helping to maintain the integrity of your enamel. 

Care for your retainers 

The best way to reduce the cost of your million-dollar smile is to care for your retainers. As discussed in the previous section, you will need a current retainer at all times to maintain your smile. You can care for your removable retainers by gently brushing them with water and a soft-bristle toothbrush. Always store your retainers in their case when you take them out to avoid misplacing them. 

Maintain proper oral health 

Visit your dentist for your semi-annual dental cleaning to keep your teeth in top shape. Regular visits prevent large issues and maintain current health. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. Avoid large amounts of sugar and acidic food. Maintaining a healthy diet contributes to the overall health of your teeth and can help your bone density. 

What should I do if my teeth have already shifted?

Hope is not lost if your teeth have already shifted. Whether you are noticing minor or major shifting, you can get proper help by contacting your orthodontist or considering remote aligner treatment. 

Visit your orthodontist 

An orthodontist will be able to access the full situation and recommend treatment steps. They will also be able to print a new set of retainers to keep your teeth from shifting further. Depending on the time of year, you may need to wait a little longer to get an appointment and pursue treatment. 

Consider at-home clear aligners

Remote aligner treatment is one of the quickest ways to get your teeth back to normal. Top invisible braces companies deliver results within just a few months. No waiting around for available appointments or scheduling follow-ups. 

Several reviewers on noted success with clear aligner treatment after noticing undesired teeth movement. Read a few of the accounts below:

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Customer Review: Margaret M.

Over a decade after having my teeth straightened as a teen, my teeth have definitely shifted, so I did some research online and chose Byte based on the good reviews about customer service, price, and the lifetime guarantee. My treatment is not yet finished because I asked for further refinements after the first shipment of aligners, but so far Byte has certainly lived up to its good reputation...I highly recommend it if you qualify!

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Customer Review: Michelle

"I’ve had an amazing experience using Candid so far! It is such an easy to use and affordable option for me. Plus, free retainer?! That’s unheard of and to have it included in an already low price... I’m beyond happy! [...] I haven’t experienced any fit issues or excessive pain which is a huge change compared to old school metal braces... the best part for me is that I don’t have to make any ortho appointments! I’m so glad I started treatment with Candid to fix the minor shifting I’ve experienced after 10 years of minor shifting post braces! Wear your retainer after treatment!!"

Start your smile journey

You can get started by visiting with your dentist to make sure that your teeth are healthy enough for orthodontic work. Once you get the go-ahead, you can order an impression kit from a reputable company. A dentist or orthodontist from the company will use your impression kit to further assess if you are a good candidate for clear braces. You will receive your aligners in the mail if you have paid and been approved for treatment. Some treatments can take as little as three months depending on the invisible braces company and the state of your teeth. 

Reclaim Your Best Smile

Start your smile journey back to a straighter smile today. Check out some of our top-rated companies! 

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